Janusz Muniak was a Polish jazz musician, saxophonist, flautist, arranger, and composer. After graduating from music school in Kraków, he debuted in 1960 in Witold Miszczak’s band. Muniak learned quickly and was soon spotted by Tomasz Stańko, who asked the young musician to join Jazz Darings. In 1964 he performed with Andrzej Trzaskowski’s quintet at the Jazz Jamboree Festival, but three years later returned to Stańko’s band.
Jazz musician, saxophonist, flautist, arranger and composer.
Muniak cooperated with Krzysztof Komeda, Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski (Studio Jazzowe P.R., SPPT Chałturnik) and Jan Jarczyk Quartet. A few years later, already a developed musician, he decided to start his own band. He debuted as a bandleader in 1976 with a quintet in which he played with talented young musicians: Jerzy Bezuha (drums), Marek Bliziński (guitar), Andrzej Dechnik (bass), and Paweł Perliński (piano). In 1979 Muniak created a quartet with Jarosław Śmietana, a guitarist.
He played with the greatest Polish jazz musicians, such as bassists Andrzej Cudzich, Antoni Miśkiewicz, Jacek Pelc and Krzysztof Zawadzki; and pianists Włodzimierz Pawlik and Wojciech Puszek. He also cooperated with many international jazz musicians, like drummers George Bruckner and Dirk A. Dhonau; trumpeters Don Cherry and Freddie Hubbard; saxophonists Hank Mobley and Charlie Ventura; and pianists Hank Jones and Gerd Schuller. Equally interesting were projects realized with Leszek Możdżer, Michał Miśkiewicz and Darek Oleszkiewicz.
Muniak participated frequently in the autumn meetings at the Kalatówki Jazz Camp, where he was an irreplaceable leader who finished jam sessions in the small hours of the morning, when the first of the hotel's guests were descending for breakfast.
Janusz Muniak Quartet was his second autonomous project. He was accompanied by Przemysław Strączek (guitar), Adam Kowalewski (contrabass), and Grzegorz Masłowski (drums).
In 1992 he opened a jazz club called ‘U Muniaka’ on Floriańska street in Kraków, where concerts still take place on a regular basis.
Muniak recorded almost thirty albums, including: Janusz Muniak Quartet (1986), You Know These Songs (1994), Not So Fast (1995), One And Four (1997), Spotkanie (1998), Just Friends (2000) and Annie (2002).
His last album Contemplation was released in November 2015. He played with Joachim Mencel, one of the most versatile Polish piano players; Willem von Hombracht, a notable contrabassist from Saint Louis; and Harry Tanschek, an incredibly active and experienced percussionist from Vienna. Despite the fact that Contemplation is signed by four names, there is no doubt that Janusz Muniak was the central and leading figure of the project, where we find some of his standards and his one new composition.
The jazzman once said in an interview for ‘Jazz Forum’:
Jazz is so peculiarly beautiful because it enables us to create freely and show all kinds of feelings. Tune is the musicians showcase. Each musician acquires one’s own tune that represents a person’s intentions. Additionally, articulation and pace are both important.
‘Jazz Forum’ chose Janusz Muniak in the Jazz Top 2011 plebiscite to be the best Polish saxophonist. In 2015 he received the Frederick award for life achievement.
Janusz Muniak died in January 2016.
Source: press materials, edited by DS, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, February 2016